Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Recommitting to writing

It's that time of year again. Let's play summer break bingo--but you'll have to imagine the squares. Give yourself a point for every one of these that you've seen or that has crossed your social media recently.
  • "Just back from my fabulous research trip to Paris/Florence/other European city, where I found oodles of new materials for my book in progress."
  • "So glad I had that fellowship to Fabulous Domestic Archive!"
  • "Excited to see the proofs for this article accepted for PMLA [or insert your flagship journal here]."
  • "What a great family hiking vacation in the mountains/at the beach! No phones, just fun. Nothing like taking time completely away from work to recharge the brain."
  • "Book proposal was accepted & now I'm under contract. Woohoo!"
  • "Made so much progress on my book manuscript this summer that I'm turning it in early."
  • "Completely revamped my syllabi/syllabuses and now I'm ready for the semester to begin."
  • "Yay! Panel accepted for MLA this year, so see you in Seattle!" 
I guess you could call it time envy.  You can be glad that these people are engaging in fabulousness and hard work, yet you're still slogging away at writing and maybe not even your own writing--i.e., reviews and reports.

Objectively you know you've knocked down a lot of things and crossed a lot of items off your list this summer. Subjectively, in your heart of hearts you know that this is obligation writing, low-hanging fruit that advances everyone's career but your own.

And if you're honest with yourself, you know you could have said "no" more, or put your own writing first; it's not the fault of other people or other tasks that you're not getting the writing done. They have to ask, but you don't have to say yes. Academia is an "ask culture," not a "guess culture," so you have to grow a spine and boldly say no. That time commitment you made rests with you.

So all I can do now is recommit to the writing, one day at a time or rather one half hour at a time, about the length of a pomodoro, and try, try again. 

Friday, August 02, 2019

Productivity is overrated? NOW you tell me.

I spent the last two weeks doing eldercare, cleaning and cooking and chatting and problem-solving and strategizing and being on the phone with banks, cable services, etc.,  trying to gain access to straighten out financial messes.  (PSA: for the love of God, please grant someone Power of Attorney so that they can legally act for you before you develop dementia.) When people inquired brightly "How are you enjoying your vacation?" I had to bite my lip.

In the meantime, the work I had no time to do rolled in through my email as usual, despite my autoreply. 750words gathered dust and spiderwebs because I had no words to give it.

But wait! The productivity writer Theresa MacPhail now says "OK, I admit it: Productivity is Overrated."

In questioning "academe’s 'I’m so busy' Olympics" MacPhail cites Melissa Gregg's Counterproductive:
"Paradoxically," Gregg writes, "the capabilities of productivity software create expectations of always more activity." And she should know. She’s surrounded by engineers and software developers trying to maximize their time. As Gregg is quick to point out, however, all of the time saved from efficiency and productivity apps only increases the amount of free time that one is then expected to funnel back into — you guessed it — more work.
 Isn't that the old joke about academe? You work harder and for that your reward is . . . more work?

Isn't it sick that I want to know exactly what "productivity apps" Gregg is talking about?

And isn't it ironic that the sidebar ad is  The Chronicle Productivity Guide to Writing & Publishing?

Maybe this is a welcome and needed corrective to the culture of busyness, like Slow Writing a few years back. Or maybe it's just the usual pendulum swing, as when HGTV derides as "dated" all the trends it spent the 2000s shilling for as "classic," or how 1970s-style unpadded & un-underwired bras are now making a return as the "bralet."

At this point, I'm going with "needed corrective" because my productivity meter has run out, and I need a break. It's nice to have the backing of experts on this.